Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 28
The theme of this chapter is returning to our natural state. Tao is the undifferentiated source of the manifested universe. Tao manifests in the universe as Te. Remember that Te is loosely translated as virtue but does not mean virtue in the sense of morality, but rather in the sense of an inner harmony or integrity. Te is not separate from Tao, but rather is the natural expression or revelation of Tao in the world. Te ultimately returns to its source in Tao.
When our own lives manifest the integrity of Te, we return to our natural state of harmony with Tao. One aspect of the integrity of Te is the reconciliation of duality. The chapter gives us three examples.
Reconciling male and female
Become the watercourse for the world
Te will remain
Returning to infancy
An infant represents the primal unity of male and female, a pure channel through which Te flows uninterrupted. Jesus spoke of the innocence of children and their close link to the divine.
Reconciling black and white
Become the model for the world
Te will not fail
Returning to limitlessness
The characters for limitlessness are 无极 , pronounced wuji. If you practice taiji or other martial arts, you are probably familiar with wuji stance, which is basically a relaxed standing posture. The limitlessness of wuji is described as emptiness and is represented by this symbol.
This wuji symbol represents the vast emptiness and limitless potential of Tao. When Tao manifests into form it becomes a duality of black and white, or light and dark, or yin and yang, represented by the taiji symbol.
So within these two symbols we can see the limitless source of Tao manifesting into the perfect harmony of Te. When the two aspects of Te swirl together, they return to the undifferentiated source of Tao.
Reconciling honor and disgrace
Become the valley of the world
Te is then complete
Returning to an uncarved block
The image of the valley is used several times in the Tao Te Ching. A valley is low, fertile, open. It lies humbly beneath the rolling hills or majestic mountains that surround it. Yet it is the source of all nourishment that sustains life. It is a place of refuge and home to the water that seeks the low path.
The image of an uncut block of wood is also used several times in the Tao Te Ching, conveying a sense not only of simplicity but also of unlimited potential. The uncut block of wood can become many things. In the process of carving, however, the emerging form begins to eliminate possibilities. As the completed shape becomes defined, it takes on an identity, separate from all other things it might have been. The uncut block of wood represents the beginner’s mind of zen. And here, it represents the unlimited potential of Tao, the source from which the universe manifests and to which it returns.
The images and poetry of this chapter are so beautiful. If we can take these images as our guides, they will reveal to us the rhythm of the universe, the rhythm of manifesting and returning. Within that rhythm, we can find the balance of duality, the still point around which duality circles in its endless dance.
Is there an image here that especially resonates for you?
May I walk in the path of the low valley. ~2 Nephi 4:32